Not everyone would agree that this ordinary plate of skinless chicken and steamed vegetables in broth is beautiful. But sometimes a not-so-nice situation can make for a renewed recognition of everyday boons. Recently, I have been appreciating the simple flavors of fresh, well-raised, seasonal food in its more or less unadorned excellence. And this is the fanciest meal I've eaten in some time.
I am being very, very careful about what I'm eating as I slowly regain my appetite after a recent bit of gastric unpleasantness. I managed to get some sort of food poisoning or viral infection which pretty much took the fun out of food and everything else for a while there. With a real dread of starting something up again, I followed the bland recommendations of the hospital discharge summary for longer even than they recommended.
Before it began, I had roasted and chilled, but not yet eaten, a beautiful free range organic chicken . So when I came home from the ER, before falling into bed, I removed all the meat from the bones, bagged and froze it, and put the carcass in a big pot to simmer for broth. I woke up in time to strain the broth and refrigerate it, and went back to sleep. After a night in the fridge and removal of the fat on top, this broth became the basis of all nourishment for a couple of days. This plan comported well with my energy level at the time.
Once I moved past the broth and ginger ale stage, I added to the menu. First, I tried some rice/congee cooked with a nub of ginger root, as recommended by my daughter, and reader/friend Lynn D. They were right on target with this one. I don't know if it is just because I'm not still 100%, but I think this is something I'd be quite happy to eat when entirely normal. It really tastes like food and smells lovely, yet is entirely, uh, non-challenging.Also nice is just plain basmanti rice, cooked with a chunk of ginger and a garlic clove, which you fish out before eating. For the congee, you just cook a bit of rice in lots and lots of salted water, very slowly, until it falls apart, and grows ever so slightly gelatinous. I think some rice cookers have a special setting for this homey comfortable porridge.
Also good was some super-plain applesauce. I hadn't been shopping, but I still had most of the contents of my weekly CSA farmbox, which included a bunch of organic apples, and some homemade cider, as well as a cauliflower, green beans, carrots, cilantro, potatoes and turnips, and a little round orange winter squash which is a small version of the hubbard ,according to our weekly bulletin.
The clean, clear tastes of the vegetables, broth and chicken in my most recent dinner in a bowl was a real pleasure, reminding me how lucky I am to have access to this range of local organic vegetables and free range chickens. Of everything in the bowl, only the parsnip was from the supermarket. (I love the sweetness of parsnip in any sort of broth or boiled dinner.) Maybe it's a matter of abstinence making the heart grow fonder, but it seems as if I am somehow better able to appreciate each individual flavor. I feel that I'm pampering myself with great and subtle delicacies.
This summer, we've also had, via our CSA farmer, local cheeses available from two other farms, one of which does raw cows' milk cheeses, the other, goat cheese. My favorites thus far have been the cows' milk cheddar and a plain goat cheese. I think I may be ready for some cheddar soon. The first of the aged camenbert arrived this week. I think I'm going to have to age that one just a little longer. I plan to braise a lamb shank today, until it falls apart, de-fat it with a vengence, and have it with some mashed potatoes- so I'm getting there. But no rush.